Facebook unveiled its new platform for peer-to-peer selling on Monday, called “Marketplace.” Expanding on the buy-and-sell Facebook groups that already exist on Facebook, Marketplace aims to take the niche listings to something more broad and searchable, more akin to Craigslist.
Accessible through an icon at the bottom of the app, Marketplace allows users to find items for sale that are close to them or in the location of their choosing. Since it’s baked into the Facebook framework, potential buyers and sellers can size each other up based on profiles—giving Mark a leg up on Craig—and pay adjacently, through Facebook’s Messenger.
But buyers and sellers shouldn’t let this give them a false sense of security over traditional classifieds and forums. This is far from eBay, because, as Facebook itself notes, it does not facilitate delivery or payment on the platform.
At a glance, this is confusing. Facebook trumpets Marketplace’s ability to find, chat and pay for goods in its environment, yet it doesn’t facilitate payment or delivery?
That’s because Facebook glosses over an important point: who is doing the buying and selling. Unlike eBay and PayPal, Facebook does not offer buyer protections, only a simple person-to-person way to pay that’s similar to Venmo or PayPal’s free transfer service, a sentiment a Facebook spokesperson confirmed.
Using these person-to-person payments carries little risk as long as you know the person, but if you pay a stranger you could find yourself in the unpleasant situation of having a payment reversed out of your favor. Scammers can take advantage of payment stopping or ACH cancellations, and as Slate found, Venmo or Facebook cash-out notification doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.
Hidden in the fine print of its payment service, Facebook states that’s meant to be something that’s not intended for commercial, business, or merchant transactions, even going so far as to advise that such use would result in deactivation.
For potential users, this means that Marketplace doesn’t yet contain a complete start-to-finish buying or selling process for strangers. Instead of using Facebook’s payments, the company suggests an in-person meetup, something that it encourages with its location-based search function. Or, consumers can simply use PayPal and split the 3% commission that guarantees buyer and seller protection from misconduct.
Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumerism, tech, and personal finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.